What can you do with an old dead computer? A family member asked me how to dispose of his ancient no-longer-functioning Dell desktop PC. The good news is that it’s easy, and usually free, to recycle unwanted electronics, whether it’s a computer or cell phone, television or batteries. Here’s an generalized version of what I told him:

• Contact your city office. My own town has a free program for recycling electronics; you can drop equipment off at their transfer station on Saturday mornings. Your town may offer a similar program.

• Watch for fliers or notices for recycling programs. Local organizations are always running “drop your recycling off for free” programs, sometimes as fundraisers. (I guess they sell the junk equipment as scrap metal.)

• Electronics and computer stores can help. Many will take old electronics, whether they’ve sold them or not. Best Buy, for example, has a program described here.

• Some general retailers have recycling programs. Walmart, for example, will take some items for free, and will charge to recycle other items, as described here.

• Check with the product’s manufacturer. Dell, for example, will pay the postage for you to ship the old Dell-branded equipment back to them for recycling, as described here.

Sure, it’s easy to toss the electronics into the trash, but please don’t. It’s irresponsible to put that type of equipment (with its valuable metals and toxic waste) into our landfills. For just a little bit of effort, you can dispose of unwanted electronics safely.

If you have other ideas, please leave a comment on this blog.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you’re building applications for mobile devices, are you an indie, a corporate or an enterprise IT developer? The mobile world is trifurcating into those specific communities.

I spent most of this week at Microsoft MIX, the company’s annual technical conference for Web developers. This year, the event had a huge concentration on both Silverlight and Windows Phone 7. There’s a connection between the two, of course: Windows Phone 7 appears to be mainly a delivery platform for Silverlight applications.

Looking forward, I see three hot mobile apps platforms: Apple’s iPhone and iPad (which share the same SDK and programming model), Google’s Android and Windows Phone.

iPhone has a huge first-mover advantage because of its incredible head start. Even so, developers chafe under Apple’s tight control over the distribution channel (the iTunes Store). Android is still ramping up, but version 2.1 of the SDK has captured a lot of attention from open-source developers. Windows Phone 7 won’t ship for many months and breaks the app model used with Windows Mobile 6.5. Still, because it uses familiar tools like Visual Studio, I predict that it’ll become popular with Microsoft developers.

That brings us to the indie, corporate and enterprise IT question.

The iPhone/iPad business model is focused on supporting two main groups of developers, which I’ll call corporate and indie, but not enterprise IT developers.

Corporate: large companies are writing apps that tie into their mainline businesses, such as the news reader from the New York Times, the Facebook mobile app, Amazon’s Kindle reader, and so-on. Those corporate developers see the apps as a way to serve their customer base – as an adjunct, perhaps, to their website.

Indie: To independent developers, the mobile app is the primary product used to make money. Often, there’s a “lite” free version which is meant to entice the customer to buy a paid version. Sometimes, the app is free and the developer tries to make money selling ads. Either way, the app is the product.

Enterprise IT: Apple’s iTunes distribution model is designed for selling or giving away software to consumers. It’s not appropriate for a company to build applications to be used by its employees only. If enterprise developers want to support employees with iPhone or iPad, they should use a tuned website, not a native app. That makes the iPhone/iPad less than ideal as an IT platform.

The Android platform is compelling to indies and enterprise IT developers because there’s no Apple-style restriction on app distribution. It’s great for building custom software for employees and partners. It’s also very appealing to indie developers who want to build apps that Apple doesn’t want to stock in its store for either quality or content reasons. Plus, it’s fine for corporate developers to create Android apps that support their other business interests. The biggest weakness is the lack of a central marketing machine (like the Apple iTunes Store) to drive revenue for indies. So, while we’ll see lots of Android apps, we’re unlikely to see as much developer revenue.

Windows 7 will be more like Android than iPhone. It should prove especially popular with enterprise IT departments because they will find it easiest to build, deploy and manage apps on Windows Phone devices. Plus, Microsoft is unparalleled in supporting enterprise IT developers with tools, training and third-party ecosystem partners. If the phone sells well, it will also be attractive to corporate developers. For indies, much depends on how strong Microsoft’s marketing programs are – beyond the Xbox, Microsoft has little track record there, and its attempts to build a business around the Zune have been disappointing.

So tell me: Are you an indie, a corporate or an enterprise IT developer? What’s your take on iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you buy lots of stuff from Amazon.com — as I do — you might be fooled by receiving a message like the one below. It certainly looks real, as it came from a legitimate-looking email address. However, a real Amazon order confirmation lists exactly what you ordered. This scam message does not.

Also, a real Amazon.com order confirmation would not have been sent as a bcc to one of our info@ email addresses. Or have entered the mail stream via an unsecured SMTP relay server belonging to a law firm in Minneapolis.

In the email, the line labeled “ORDER DETAILS” is a link that goes to an online store selling “adult supplements,” if you know what I mean. I’ve seen other messages like this that bring you to a fake Amazon.com login screen, where you might be tricked into entering your username and password. That’s bad, bad, bad.

That is the only bogus link in the message. All the other links actually go to Amazon.com

Be very careful about clicking links in email messages, even if they appear to be from a legitimate sender.

From: “email hidden; JavaScript is required
Date: March 16, 2010 2:38:37 PM PDT
To: Subject: Amazon.com – Your Confirmation (464-18147-30235)

Dear Customer,

Your order has been successfully confirmed. For your reference, here`s a summary of your order:

You just confirmed order #592-60631-10566


Sold by: Amazon.com, LLC

Because you only pay for items when we ship them to you, you won`t be charged for any items that you cancel.

Thank you for visiting Amazon.com!

Earth`s Biggest Selection


Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Our next SharePoint Technology Conference will be Oct. 20-22, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge.

We are conservatively projecting 750-800 registrants for SPTechCon Boston, but given the incredible growth of SPTechCon San Francisco from 2009 to 2010, and the fact that SPTechCon Boston will be the first event after the official release of Microsoft SharePoint 2010, attendance could be substantially higher. 🙂

More than 85% of the show floor has already been reserved by sponsors and exhibitors. Yes, we’re trying to get more space!!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

SPTechCon San Francisco (Feb. 10-12) had more than 1,000 registrants. That made the conference nearly twice the size of our previous SPTechCon San Francisco, held in January 2009.

Attendees were drawn to SPTechCon’s outstanding faculty. While many attendees focused on SPTechCon’s classes and workshops about SharePoint 2010, many others went to classes on older versions of Microsoft’s collaboration platform.

Not only did we have huge attendance, but the show floor sold out twice. All our booths and sponsorships were reserved by November 2009 – but we able to secure additional expo space from the Hyatt Burlingame. That extra space sold out fast. The final count was a record 52 exhibitors!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Let’s say that you can type 15 words per minute using a two-fingered method. You want to get faster, perhaps up to 40 wpm, using all ten fingers. During the learning process, as you suffer through unfamiliar motions, your typing speed and productivity speed will suffer for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Maybe your speed will drop to only two or three wpm. Slowly, you’ll build back up to your previous rate of 15 wpm… and then you’ll keep going faster and faster.

Ken Pugh, in his keynote address at the Enterprise Software Development Conf., referred to that period during the learning curve, when your productivity drops while you master new skills, as “chaos.” His metaphor for the learning curve, though, wasn’t typing. Ken used snowboarding metaphors to discuss how development teams can suffer when you’re trying to get them to adopt new practices and methodologies, such as agile development.

Ken is one of the most creative, most thoughtful Big Thinkers in the software development field. While I don’t snowboard, his point was completely clear. Looking at a curve that he drew – with the lower initial skill level on the left, then the dip into chaos while new skills are mastered, and then a higher attained skill level on the right – I immediately decide to refer to that dip as the “dreaded chasm of chaos.”

(Hey, I like alliterations, who do you expect?)

It’s hard to bring teams through the dreaded chasm of chaos. When it comes to typing, of course, most people accept that the ten-fingered method is faster than two-finger typing, and thus it’s a pretty safe bet. But when you’re adopting new platforms, new tools or new development methodologies, it’s not obvious or guaranteed that the new approach is better than the old. It’s not clear to managers or development teams that it’s worth the pain and chaos of leaving a comfort zone, or that the change will ever pay for the lost productivity required to navigate the learning curve.

In other words, there’s no proven ROI, no sure return on investment for enduring that chaos.

How do you cross the dreaded chasm of chaos you’re not sure that the outcome will be positive? Three words: “leap of faith.” When it comes to ten-fingered typing, not much faith is required. When it comes to spending the time, money and political capital to convince management and development teams to make that painful transition, the required leap of faith is a lot bigger.

Your arguments will probably be accompanied by lots of graphs and analysis documents, since everyone will need to know how big the chasm is, how much time and money it will take to cross it, and understand the benefits of getting to the other side. But there’s more than a cold-blooded business analysis in making this type of change: there’s an emotional component involved. You don’t want grudging acceptance; what you want is excitement for the future, and an enthusiastic willingness to endure the dreaded chasm of chaos because the grass will be greener on the other side (if I may mix my metaphors).

While only a few minutes of Ken’s riveting talk about “snowboarding, windsurfing, backpacking, and the art of software development” focused on this notion of chaos, it truly fired my imagination. Thanks, Ken!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Kent Beck and Ken Pugh are smart, smart fellows. Listening to them discuss the art and science of software development is guaranteed to excite the neurons… and leave you feeling supercharged with energy and ideas.

Both Kent (pictured) and Ken were keynote speakers at this week’s Enterprise Software Development Conference. As the conference chair, I had the honor of introducing their talks, of course – and then also got to hang around and chat with them afterwards.

Kent’s talk focused on what he calls responsive design. That’s a way of characterizing software changes, such as requests for implementing new features or functions. Kent has found a way of classifying software changes (which might be at a detailed level, like a class or a method, or at a higher level, like a module or complete application) into four groups:

• If you know where your changes are going and how to get there, easy changes can be implemented in direct “leaps,” while more complex changes might require a more resource-intensive “parallel” approach.

• If you don’t know how to visualize how to implement the changes directly, you may need to use “stepping stones” to inch your way to where you can gain greater visibility, or you may need to use “simplification” to eliminate requirements until the path becomes clear.

Sound simple? When you hear Kent speak, of course, everything seems completely obvious, because his work is so thorough and grounded in the real world. In reality, of course, his classification scheme is more complex and nuanced.

Why is this important? Each of these four approaches (leap, parallel, stepping stone, simplification) requires a different process to handle — and each of those processes can be surprising consistent, and therefore can be practiced and refined. If you can classify the requirements for a software change or feature implementation into one of those four categories, that can help you do a better job of estimating the project, marshalling the right resources and get the project off to a good start.

The talk was eye-opening. It’s a rare treat to learn from genuine Big Thinkers like Kent Beck. Shortly, I’ll share some comments about Ken Pugh’s discussion about the Dreaded Chasm of Chaos.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

How long should Dummies Month last? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

The correct answer, according to the For Dummies folks, is “two months.” It’s like an all-day Happy Hour!

Celebrate For Dummies in March and April

From fashion to Facebook, For Dummies is making everything easier!

From March 1, 2010 through April 30, 2010, For Dummies invites customers to join its annual “Dummies Month” celebration, offering a $5 mail-in rebate with a purchase of any For Dummies book or Audio Set (with the price of $6.99 or more).

Since its re-launch in January 2009, Dummies.com has quickly become a bookmarked favorite for fans of the brand. In addition to sample chapters from the book series, the site offers free how-to videos, photo step-by-steps, and expanded instructional articles. In coordination with Dummies Month, Dummies.com is hosting a special sweepstakes; from March 1 through April 30, visitors can enter up to once daily at www.dummies.com/go/win for a chance to win an Apple iPad loaded with For Dummies Apps. There’s no easier way to get helpful information anytime, anywhere than with apps from Dummies and the new iPad.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

United Business Media is relaunching COMDEX as a virtual trade show.

This is hysterically funny. Laugh-out-loud funny. Roll-on-the-floor funny. The benefits of attending COMDEX were talking to people, seeing and touching new products, talking to people, making deals with both exhibitors and other attendees, talking to people, discovering new companies, and talking to people.

While much of the business at COMDEX was “formal” on the show floor, just as much (or more) was casual and informal, in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, cab lines, black-jack tables, hotel lobbies, hallways, hospitality suites and so-on.

COMDEX is where business got done, because everyone you wanted to do business with was at COMDEX.

Sorry, but a virtual trade show, where you get to view simulated booths from the isolation of your cubicle, isn’t what huge industry get-togethers like COMDEX are all about.

(PS: Grand Hall of Masters??????)

Here’s the news — see the press release here.

Leading virtual event provider takes COMDEX back to its roots

UBM, the leading global provider of business media and marketing services, is relaunching COMDEX as a virtual event which will take place November 16-17, 2010.

At its peak COMDEX was the world’s most famous tradeshow, attracting more than 200,000 visitors and 2,300 IT industry exhibitors from around the world to Las Vegas before the show closed its doors in 2003. UBM acquired the COMDEX brand as part of its acquisition of MediaLive International Inc in 2006.

The virtual COMDEX event is being launched by UBM’s Everything Channel business, a leader in technology sales channel media and services. Everything Channel is going back to the original 1979 concept of an event designed exclusively for the technology sales channel called “Computer Dealer Exhibition”. Everything Channel’s virtual COMDEX will include:

* Grand Hall of Masters will showcase the event’s keynote speakers
* The Conference Hall will offer technical, product, channel and business conference tracks
* The Exhibit Hall will feature booths and pavilions from technology vendors
* Hospitality Suites for private meetings, briefings and cocktail parties
* The Media Room will host registered journalists and industry analysts
* CRN Test Center will offer live reviews and demos of leading-edge technology solutions

For more information on and to register for Everything Channel’s COMDEX event, go here: www.COMDEXvirtual.com.

Virtual events are specially created online digital environments in which participants interact with online content or with other online participants as they would at live, face to face events. In 2009 UBM ran a total of 38 virtual events of different types, including careers fairs, technical seminars, tradeshows, conferences and sales meetings. For more information on UBM’s virtual events in 2010 go here: http://www.ubmstudios.com/featured-events/upcoming-events/.

Everything Channel’s virtual COMDEX event will be built by UBM Studios, UBM’s creative and strategic marketing business which specialises in building next-generation virtual media business solutions which connect global audiences through a robust virtual event environment with an intuitive user interface and appealing visuals. To find out more about the capabilities of UBM Studios virtual events go here: http://www.ubmstudios.com/virtual-product-suite/.

Separately, UBM Studios has signed a strategic alliance agreement with InXpo, the largest virtual event technology provider, to deliver next generation virtual business solutions using the InXpo Virtual Events Platform. As its first global media licensee, UBM Studios will use the InXpo platform to support the delivery of UBM virtual events at scale and on a worldwide basis.

David Levin, CEO of UBM said:

“The original COMDEX died because it stopped serving its core customers. We are giving COMDEX a future by going back to its past. Our virtual COMDEX is focused on serving the IT channel, Value Added Resellers, ISVs and all those people and businesses who make up the IT distribution system. Virtual COMDEX works right alongside and complements the other products and services we provide for the Channel and for the wider technology industry.”

“We are a leader in the virtual event market – we ran 38 virtual events in 2009. Through our UBM Studios business this year we’ll run many more virtual tradeshows, recruitment events and in-house training sessions for industries as diverse as construction, shipping and healthcare.”

“We run virtual events in tandem with live, in person events like tradeshows: we think we have a great opportunity to take advantage of the complementarity between online and offline events. Virtual events are emerging as a great, cost effective way of bringing customers together to engage and interact with branded business content and as well as a means of building professional business community interaction. These capabilities are key to delivering the measurable ROI that our customers are looking for.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

If you’re reading this on Monday, Mar. 1, today is the first day of the Enterprise Software Development Conference. As conference chair, I’m running around like the proverbial chicken with my head cut off.

As I write this, however, we’re in the calm before the storm. Hundreds of enterprise software developers and development managers are about to descend upon San Mateo, Calif., for an exciting three days of workshops, technical classes, conversation and networking.

It’s going to be a great week. I love conferences, studying with experts like our outstanding faculty – and learning even more from experts like you, our readers, who are attending the conference.

Day in and day out, too much of my time is spent starting at a couple of huge, glowing monitors. Sure, that’s where most of the work gets done. True, much of my output is measured by the fruit of the keyboard. Yet, despite all the technology, the computer isn’t where learning takes place, or where innovative ideas come from.

Every time I attend a conference – every time – my brain goes into sensory overdrive. Conversations and questions energize the neurons. Complacency vanishes, and pages of notes bloom. Don’t know about you, but the best thinking truly occurs outside the box.

If you’re attending ESDC, please flag me down and say “Hello.” (I’m the crazy-looking guy who looks like he either lost something, forgot something or is late to something. That’s okay. Stop me anyway.) I’m looking forward to learning from you.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick